It goes without saying that the best part of traveling is eating. Or at least for me. I could skip the museums, art galleries and strange monuments – let’s find a food tour and eat all afternoon.
I remember arriving in Vietnam. I was meeting a friend who’d been traveling in Japan. The whole trip was a last minute decision on my part – ask me to go somewhere and I’ll probably say yes.
After traveling for 18 hours, standing in the wrong visa line for an embarrassing amount of time, and mistaking my hotel driver for someone else, I was ready to pass out.
Waking up the next morning was the first time I’d actually noticed I was in Hanoi. The image of what I saw that morning is still seared in my mind – a woman gutting and skinning a fish in the gutter outside our hotel.
My friend and I made a pact then and there that we weren’t going to let horrific sites like this stop us from trying food in Vietnam. Good thing we agreed to that because our food tour that afternoon had no shortage of unsanitary situations that could turn us off of travel forever.
Instead, we ate our way through Hanoi and couldn’t have been happier about it.
I managed to escape food poisoning in Vietnam. This is still one of the greatest mysteries of my life.
Vietnam has some of the best food I’ve ever eaten – I love that for nearly every meal you can eat noodle soup and a beer for under $2.00.
Rather than tempt you with a list of everything I ate – I’ll share a recipe I’ve been trying out.
Vietnamese fish with turmeric and dill.
When was the last time you ate white fish that tasted like…anything? Probably never, so read on.
This was one of my favorite meals in Vietnam, and it’s shockingly easy to make. The only time it requires is about 30-60 minutes for marinating the fish.
By frying the fish on a hot pan, you get the salty, savory bits seared on the outside but soft flaky fish on the inside. The fresh herbs and green onions add a delicate flavor, a perfect complement to the fish.
If you’ve never cooked with turmeric or fish sauce, this is the perfect recipe to start out with.
This dish certainly doesn’t taste as good as I remember, but that’s probably because nothing tastes as good as the place you first had it in.
Make this for a tiny vacation to Vietnam.
Chả Cá Thăng Long – Vietnamese fish with turmeric and dill
Start making 60 minutes before you want Vietnamese fish
1.5 lbs of Tilapia or Cod (a firm white fish)
3 Tbs Vietnamese fish sauce
1 Tsp turmeric powder
1 Tbs pressed or finely chopped garlic
½ Tbs pressed or finely chopped ginger
3 Tbs finely chopped shallots
2 Tbs chopped dill
¼ Tsp black pepper
2 Tbs coconut oil
1 large yellow onion
1 bunch of green onions
1 bunch of dill
Chopped roasted peanuts (optional)
More dill (optional)
Chili sauce (optional)
Rice noodles or additional veggies (optional)
*Originally adapted/slightly altered from The Culinary Chronicles
** I highly suggest using a non-stick pan for the fish. I tried stainless steel but you need a generous amount of oil for this not to stick to the pan. Easier and cleaner to use non-stick.
*** If you don’t have fish sauce, buy some. I’ve seen some recipes swap soy sauce for fish sauce but you will definitely have a different flavor. Fish sauce smells terrible but provides the most incredible flavor in your dishes!
Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl. Cut your fish into 2-inch chunks. Mix in the fish with the marinade, cover and let rest in your fridge for at least 30 minutes.
In the meantime, slice your onions and fry them in a little bit of the coconut oil on medium-high heat on the stove. You want these slightly browned but not crispy. Slice your green onions into 1-inch pieces and roughly chop the dill. Throw these in the onion pan with about 2 minutes left. Then throw them on a plate and cover with foil to keep warm while you cook your fish.
In the same pan, heat the rest of your coconut oil on medium heat. Pat dry your fish so it’s not dripping wet as it hits the pan. You’ll fry the fish on each side for about 3 minutes depending on the thickness of your fish.
Plate the fish over the onions and dill. This would be great over rice noodles, or roasted green veggies like beans, kale and squash. Top with chopped peanuts, more dill and chili sauce if you like. Good luck saving leftovers.